Colorado School of Mines, Idaho National Laboratory expand research partnership
Energy storage, geothermal energy and next-generation mining are among topics for five-year collaboration
Colorado School of Mines and Idaho National Laboratory have agreed to expand their joint efforts in scientific research for the next five years. A memorandum of understanding signed in late October establishes a framework for both institutions to collaborate on projects involved with energy storage, high-temperature fuel cells, geothermal energy systems, nuclear fuel cycle and reactor engineering, environmental science, and next-generation mining science and engineering.
“There’s tremendous overlap in research focus at our two institutions, from generating hydrogen through high-temperature electrolysis using process heat from microreactors to addressing the challenges we face in finding, extracting and processing critical materials for the energy transition,” said Mike Kaufman, Colorado School of Mines’ director of Materials and Energy Initiatives. “They see a lot of potential synergies, as do we.”
The relationship will bring the two institutions’ strengths together in a way that the whole exceeds the sum of its parts, said Travis McLing, INL’s co-lead for critical minerals research. “Mines of the Future” is a concept in which critical minerals can be extracted more surgically and efficiently, with less energy consumed and less harm to the environment.
“At INL we have the technology, with remote sensors and machine learning,” he said. “Colorado School of Mines is the institution that allows INL to take cutting-edge science and apply it to the actual rock. We don’t have a mine ourselves, but Colorado School of Mines is a global leader. It’s not even debatable.”
Kaufman said the school is also hoping to expand its nuclear energy research program and apply it to mining processes. Along with the memorandum of understanding, Colorado School of Mines professor Thomas Albrecht-Schoenzart has been named to a joint appointment with INL. Renowned for his studies into the bonding and reactions of actinide materials, Albrecht-Schoenzart will be associated with the INL Glenn T. Seaborg Institute, whose mission is to provide education and training in the field of actinide science and maintain U.S. leadership in the field.
Actinides are radioactive elements at the bottom of the periodic table that play a key role in nuclear chemistry. There are five Seaborg Institutes in the Department of Energy’s national laboratory complex, each of which focuses on the core capabilities of its home lab. Since the 1950s, when it was the National Reactor Testing Station, INL has been a leader in actinide science.
“Our Seaborg Institute is in a growth and development stage, and professor Albrecht-Schoenzart is ideally suited to aid INL in the endeavor,” said Rory Kennedy, the institute’s director. “The joint appointment will be used to encourage young researchers to consider internships, graduate fellowships, postdoctoral appointments and career positions at INL, and present opportunities for INL staff and INL interns and postdocs to visit or work at the Colorado School of Mines.”